The End of Overeating by David Kessler

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I’m spoiled. By spoiled I mean that my greatest luxury is that I can wake up in the morning and write about whatever the heck I want to write about. Having to write about Ray Peat all month? Well, drudgery has set in. I wanna talk about something that is interesting to me now – like, today, and Ray Peat’s stances on starch and how it has caused the rise in obesity (is this a joke Ray?) or estrogen just won’t do. Screw Ray May. We’re going to play and feel the day, okay?

A lot of people have contacted me over the past few months wondering how I feel about Stephan Guyenet’s recent focus on food palatability in governing weight. When I get these emails, I do get a little annoyed. I get annoyed because I’ve been writing about the role of palatability in weight set point for two years now, and thinking about it for four years – since I encountered the work of Seth Roberts.  I even gave it my own name and flippin’ sweet acronym – the “Pleasure Center Activation Theory (PCAT).” This is nothing new. There is a vast amount of research and common sense pointing in that direction. And so, I address this, for about the 6th time – drawing upon a book dedicated entirely to the subject – The End of Overeating by David Kessler.

“Where traditional cuisine is meant to satisfy, American industrial food is meant to stimulate.”

For starters, when you mention the word “palatable,” many get the wrong idea. I know in some back and forth earlier this year with Aaron F. and others, that the idea of good food being the culprit of obesity didn’t sit well. And it shouldn’t. By palatable, scientists mean the ability of a food to stimulate the reward centers in the brain, more or less. And while I would never opt for a Cool Ranch Dorito over seared foie gras slung over brioche, there’s no question, in terms of the scientific definition of palatability, that the magic, chemically-enhanced, MSG-laden flavor dust on a perfectly-crunchy Dorito measures much higher on the palatability Richter scale. I had a Tabasco Cheez-it recently to remind myself of how potent modern food-like things are. And I gotta tell ya, that stuff is mesmerizing. Food like that gets ever more drug-like every time I taste it.

“To understand how eating promotes more eating – and why homeostasis is under sustained assault – we must first understand the concept of ‘palatability’ as the term is used scientifically. In everyday language, we call food palatable if it has an agreeable taste. But when scientists say a food is palatable, they are referring primarily to its capacity to stimulate the appetite and prompt us to eat more. Palatability does involve taste, of course, but, crucially, it also involves the motivation to pursue that taste. It is the reason we want more. Palatability is largely based on how food engages the full range of our senses. Usually, the most palatable foods contain some combination of sugar, fat, and salt. The sensory properties of palatable foods – the cold, creamy pleasure of a milkshake, the aroma of chocolate cake, the texture of crispy chicken wings sweetened with a honey-mustard dipping sauce – all stimulate the appetite. And it’s that stimulation, or the anticipation of that stimulation, rather than genuine hunger, that makes us put food into our moths long after our caloric needs are satisfied.”

With this broader definition you have a whole host of sensory stimuli that play a part in weight regulation. Food packaging, lighting, social setting, ambience, food color, music, aroma, crunch, texture contrast, moisture content, chewing time, fiber content – these all play a role in the sensory environment of the food experience. And these things are understood by the people who sell food successfully. The first person to conceptualize of pink lemonade or the infamous blue raspberry knew a thing or two about human senses. Heck, you can even taste test the same thing in two different types of packaging to find out which package “tastes better.” This kind of research is being done to make food as hyperpalatable as possible.

What I like about what could be called the “addiction model of obesity,” is that addiction, unlike the insulin or leptin system of the body (or recently discussed TXNIP), is not a negative feeback loop. It’s an escalation process, where you must go ever higher to achieve the same level of gratification. We know for sure that weight regulation occurs in the brain – to think that something as dominant in the brain as the relentless hunt for pleasure stimulation doesn’t play a role, or couldn’t trump the metabolic signals of leptin or TXNIP, would be foolish. It’s certainly part of the picture. How much of the picture, and whether or not Bob Ross painted it, is a question that has not been answered – and is probably highly individual.

“Eating foods high in sugar, fat, and salt makes us eat more foods high in sugar, fat, and salt. We see this clearly in both animal and human research. Barry Levin, a physician and professor at the New Jersey Medical School, demonstrated this principle with rats. He bred one strain to overfeed when a high-calorie diet was available, producing an obesity-prone rat. The other strain did not ordinarily overfeed – an obesity-resistant rat. After a period of eating extra calories, the obesity-resistant rats typically cut back their food consumption much faster than obesity-prone rats. But when both groups of rats were offered a rich, creamy liquid high in sugar and fat, those patterns changed. All the animals ate without restraint. Levin said that when they are given such a palatable combination, ‘they will just gorge themselves.’ Increasing only the fat content of a resistant rat’s diet won’t make the animal overeat or become obese. But feed it a high-fat, high-sugar diet, and it will grow just as fat as an obesity-prone rat on a high-calorie diet.”

This is an important concept to take note of. Sugar is not fattening. I lose weight rapidly eating 800 grams of sugar per day. Fat is not fattening. I remained very lean gobbling up 300 grams of fat per day for several years on a diet with about 100-150 grams of carbohydrates per day. There is no one substance that is fattening and is the culprit of all obesity. Sure, vegetable oils are a prime suspect in terms of playing a role, potentially a major one in a discussion of root causes – as they have far-reaching pro-inflammatory and anti-metabolic properties that are capable of short-circuiting the weight regulation mechanism of the human body over lifetimes and generations.

But we should instead look at foods as a whole. In general, we could say eating in restaurants is fattening. Brownies are fattening. Ice cream is fattening. Potato chips and French fries are fattening. If I eat lots of these foods I gain fat at a pretty rapid rate, at least for a few weeks. Recently I got all gung ho on Peat and began eating ice cream to appetite. But lo and behold, just like many who have a tendency towards weight gain have reported to me about Peat’s high fat/high sugar combo, I gained fat very quickly with ice cream in my diet, needing roughly 4,500-5,000 calories to satisfy my appetite instead of the normal 3,500-ish. Substituting more fruit and juice and starch for the high fat content in the ice cream strips the fat off quickly, and lowers my appetite tremendously.

But even with these generalizations, much complexity remains. Monotony trumps all, removing the pleasure away from what would otherwise stimulate the pleasure circuitry. Eat nothing but ice cream or French fries and your appetite will likely plummet and you will lose weight.

Further confusing the issue, the largest my appetite has ever been was after prolonged calorie restriction. I wasn’t really an “addict” when it came to food until I did that. Before that my appetite regulated itself pretty well without ever thinking much about all this health and nutrition stuff. It certainly wasn’t a case of eating “fat, sugar, and salt makes you want to eat more fat, sugar, and salt.” Instead, it was NOT eating fat, sugar, and salt that made me want to eat to the point of sheer agony of fat, sugar, and salt. After doing that for long enough, my appetite regulated itself once again, and fat, sugar, and salt began to once again lose their relentless appeal.

On the program I devised on how to raise your metabolism, nearly everyone has noted a huge drop in cravings for sugary foods and other high pleasure items. Why is that? Also, pigging out on ice cream which I have done on two occasions this year, left me totally sick of ice cream and craving cardboard by the end of a week.

Similarly, the 5-year old girl that I recently watched overcome nightmares and bed wetting by eating ice cream and whatever else she wanted totally unrestrained, started out eating two ice cream cones in one sitting, then moved to one, then asked for ice cream and had two licks before throwing it away, and now doesn’t even ask for it with dinner anymore.  Ice cream lost its excitement.  It didn’t become more appealing and suddenly catapult the kid into obesity.

And what about all the intuitive eating preachers like Geneen Roth and Jon Gabriel who have had great success telling people to eat whatever the hell they want, only to find that giving themselves permission to eat anything and everything they wanted ended up making them lose weight – as removing the stigma of forbidden foods and the emotions like guilt and reward around eating just made people crave healthier foods and lose their appetite?

My suspicion is that the one key factor left out of the whole equation is addiction proneness. I do think addiction proneness can be diminished if not eliminated entirely by increasing the metabolic rate, lowering stress hormones, and removing all of the psychological baggage surrounding food – certainly getting away from the concept of food as a treat, reward, or a form of entertainment.

Anyway, it’s all very fascinating, and a big part of the big picture – as big or bigger than Bob Ross’s happy little trees. To hear former head of the FDA, David Kessler, talking about his conclusions, scroll down to watch a tv interview with him…

Here are some other interesting Kessler quotes to make ya go hmmm….

“Animals, humans included, seem to have a built-in preference for features larger than those that occur naturally. Ethologists, scientists who study animal behavior, have tried to understand the attraction of the ‘super-normal stimuli.’ Consider the oystercatcher, a shorebird with black-and-white plumage, a red bill, and brightly colored legs. Back in the 1950’s, Dutch ethologist Nikolaas Tinbergen conducted now-classic studies of the bird’s incubation behavior and discovered something astonishing: When presented with a choice between brooding its own small egg and the giant egg of a much larger bird, the oystercatcher invariably chose to sit on the giant one.”

“Just as a compulsive gambler can’t place a single bet and feel satisfied, many people can’t stop after a few bites of hyperpalatable food. We have become conditioned to seek more reward. The barricades to repetitive behavior have been toppled. We keep looking for the next big wow.”



  1. I was just thinking about how addicting some foods can be prior to reading your post. I'm with you on the Doritos. It's proably easier to stop taking hard drugs than it is to not finish a bag of chips. You have many great insights as usual.

    • Yes, read “Fighting the Food Giants” by Stitt. He worked for the food processors and
      will tell you how many addictive chemicals they put in to make you eat more. He had to
      taste cereals every day and the one they ate the most of was the one the company pushed. Those wafer cookies with creme filling were laden with chemicals.

  2. Yet, add water to the Doritos and they would no longer be addictive. It's the whole sensory experience that counts. But we tend to take things out of context and try to isolate them. Waiting for someone to build a case against "crunch" as the cause of obesity after this!

  3. I wonder if this incredible sensory experience and dopamine response is what blinds us to the back side of eating processed food: Dorito hangover! I get such a bad aftertaste in my mouth and a sick feeling that is usually totally eclipsed by the front end crunch. But I've been trying to associate the back end of the experience with the food to cut that upward spiral cycle that you talk about. Even with less processed foods, for example peanut butter and too much fruit which both give me a stomach ache. It's harder with foods that I have an addiction or psychological association with (potato chips are my favorite, so it is harder for me to bring the post-indulgence fetid-greasy-mouth feeling to over-rule that salty crunch…)

  4. Good stuff. At the same time, the notion that hyper-palatable food is just so gosh-darn addictive and we can't control ourselves and eat until we get fat with our hunger-regulation mechanisms gone out to lunch has not been demonstrated to be necessarily true in all cases. All of these foods also cause severe leptin resistance and thus we can't say that these foods would have the same effect in the absence of leptin resistance, there is no evidence for that. I'm thinking about the rats in Stephan G's first post where the chocolate group ate more. So here we have identified a highly addictive factor of food and noticed an escalation in appetite. But all rats on lab diets seem to become terribly unhealthy so we can't tell if good leptin signaling would ameliorate the effects of highly palatable foods. Both in reducing appetite after a reasonable point and in burning off extra energy and keeping the animal lean.

    Can we create equally palatable foods but in the context of a healthy diet that doesn't destroy the metabolism? That's the experiment that needs to be done.

    From my personal experience I used to eat nothing but hyper-palatable foods but I wasn't overweight or always hungry, I was just 20 years old and in relatively good health despite pizza and burgers every day (I rarely ate the fries! Heh). If anything set off the weight gain it was psychological stress. If anything resolved it for good it was a RRARF with healthy foods that were delicious (but not cracktastic like potato chips I admit).

    So the point is that there are plenty of youngsters eating hyper-palatable foods in moderation with no weight gain for years and no extreme hungry pangs or gorging. The metabolic syndrome hasn't hit them yet.

  5. First, thank you Matt for leaving the Ray May crap, even if it's just temporary.

    Second, great post although I do just want to point out that Masterjohn had a recent post about how it is possible to make rats fat with just fat and not much sugar. So, it might still be possible for people to be fat without having to combine but sugar and fat and just by having one alone if it overstimulates the reward system.

  6. Reminds me of Thanksgiving dinner 2007 at my cousin's house. I ate so much food I felt like my stomach was going to explode. After lunch everyone sat around and talked while I slept for 3 hours. It was always that way though. I'd diet hard for a time and then reward myself with a massive gleast (gluttonous feast).

    Fast forward to my first post RRARF Thanksgiving last year: I went into it with the same mindset as always, eat WTCIWWIWI, but there was a big difference this time. I just couldn't make myself keep eating. After one plate and a dessert I was done. It wasn't some kind of "my stomach shrunk" bull crap because last year I was 10 lbs heavier than in '07. I've noticed the same thing a few more times since Thanksgiving last year. I just don't have the big appetite I used to be known for. There is one thing I still have that I'm known for though, pure freakin awesomeness in anything else I touch.

  7. "And it’s that stimulation, or the anticipation of that stimulation, rather than genuine hunger, that makes us put food into our moths long after our caloric needs are satisfied."

    Mmm, there must be some happy moths out there!

  8. That study described by Masterjohn actually showed that a high-fat high sugar diet can sometimes be less fattening than a high fat low sugar diet. That is more in line with observations on the French diet. I'll never buy that anything that comes out of Walmart can be either tastier or more "hyperpalatable" than a french pastry fresh out the oven, or a crepe loaded with whipped cream and strawberry jam. After 7 months on the HED all the industrially processed junk foods really started to taste like the shit it is, fresh deserts from whole foods was the only thing still capable of getting the taste buds going.

    Anyway, the one thing I really took away from Stephans latest post about palatability was that in those obese patients – as soon as food reward was taken out of the picture, their leptin signaling immediately started working like clockwork. Compared to the lean controls who continued eating enough to sustain their caloric needs despite the lack of food reward, the obese patients just immediately dropped their caloric intake to almost nothing.

    This makes me think that leptin resistance is less a cause than a consequence of obesity – the leptin signal to eat less is there but is being ignored in favor of other motives. Which further makes me think the parallels often drawn between obesity and starvation may not really be that relevant. A starving man does not have the same kind of appetite as an obese man, and like, in starvation, the loss of sex drive is obviously due to lack of leptin, but in obesity I think it more likely that its simply due to the hyper-estrogenic effects of all that excess fat, since losing fat by any means typically raises testosterone and improves sexual function in obese men.

    To bring that back to Peat, with all his writings about the evils of excess estrogen, I surprised he hasn't written more about the relation between fat mass, aromatase and estrogen production.

  9. Hey Matt,

    I posted to the last thread about how you've been all about Seth Roberts and PCAT, and asking you to address susceptibility, and how you were the shit for being, again, ahead of the curve. But Blogger ate my comment and I didn't Ctrl+C, and didn't re-work it.

    All of which is to say, you still da man, homey.

    Good post here. Looking forward to your triangle of health idea you mentioned in an earlier post's comment.

    About the fat sugar combo, and the 4500+ calories you need to feel satisfied on it- you floated the idea that maybe it did increase calorie consumption spontaneously, but maybe also increased metabolism and lean mass and HGH. Are you thinking that's not the case now?

    You also said elsewhere you do a lot better with fruit and sugars from juices rather than pies and ice cream. Are you skeptical again of refined sugars? Or do you still give the green light to mess around and feel it out, case by case?

    Johnny Lawrence- I had the same experience. After RRARFing, my appetite has been more blunted than I can remember in my adult life. I can still throw down sometimes, but none of that gnarly need to keep eating even though my belly is obviously full. I've actually thought about another round of RRARF to see what impact that has on appetite, whether that might blunt it further, or maybe increase warmth in hands and feet, etc. We'll see.

  10. Anyone trying to build a case against 'crunch' as the cause of obesity will have to get past those studies that show that crunchy foods are associated with leanness and soft foods with less-than-leanness.

    Thanks for recapping the scientific definition of 'palatability:' it really is a poor choice of word for that definition. Maybe not a 'misnomer,' but definitely a 'missing-many-components-nomer.'

    Preference for 'what's biggest:' one of our neighbors' turkeys has started nesting on a pile of old white fishing floats in our yard. They are almost egg-shaped, and about twice as big as the eggs she lays! The weasel in the woodpile (who is about the same size as the turkey eggs) has been stealing most of the eggs that she lays–eggshelly weasel poop galore.

  11. Matt, thanks for this. I was getting a bit hung up on the idea of palatability == taste (which I couldn't buy).

    I also think your point about "addiction proneness" is important. I keep telling people about this Gabor Mate video; perhaps development (not to mention epigenetics) might play a role.

    One thought … have you read Gladwell's Tipping Point? In it, he discusses that there's a threshold at which nicotine becomes addictive (I believe it's ~20 cigs/day). Perhaps there's a similar threshold for hyperpalatable food?

  12. @Rob

    I have two 250+ lb buddies that used to marvel at how much I (5'6" 165ish) could eat back in the prehi-RRARF-ic days. I know exactly what you mean by eating past full. It was almost like there was no off switch, especially if I had some chronic (sweet tea) with my meal. It was almost like I wasn't even in control of it, like my appetite was on cruise control and I was sitting back waiting for the wreck to happen.

  13. One other comment (now that I've caught up on your PCAT post). I love the idea of modern industrial foodstuffs wreaking havoc with appetite. But I'm finding the semantics of "promoting a rise in weight setpoint" (or fat setpoint per Stephan) slightly awkward.

    Somewhere in the blogosphere, Nigel Kinbrun made the comment that "a full cell is an insulin-resistant cell." I like that. High fasting insulin will have an impact on appetite as well … the brain is getting multiple signals to eat, and only one to slow down.

    So, we overeat a lot, gain a lot of weight, and deal with the aftermath of eating all these foods (with their veggie oils and added sugars) that among other things, also take a toll on our liver.

    Perhaps the reason we find it hard to maintain weight loss is not so much that we now have a new weight/fat setpoint as much as we don't restore healthy systems function — and we typically return to the same "foods" post-diet, which starts the cycle over again.

    Perhaps I'm overthinking this, but it just seems to me the problem is not an altered setpoint but unrelenting appetite. Semantics?

  14. I sheepishly admit I forgot that you wrote about The Shangri-La Diet/PCAT already. That WAS a while ago, but I could have checked your archives.

    This would explain some other things-

    1. Ever seen a fat heroin addict? I haven't. I bet it's because their dopamine receptors are so deadened that no food can interest them.

    2. This would explain how Tim Ferris' diet works. Beans are the monotony and one day a week binge keeps the dopamine receptors exercised. If he knew how this really worked he would know that beans aren't necessary and that he should focus on dopamine rewards (not calories) on his feast days.

    This warrants further research into dopamine.

    The heroin angle presents an interesting question – What are non-food substitutes for dopamine (besides heavy drugs)? If you got your thrills regularly from elsewhere than food would be inherently less addictive. We should make a list. Who has ideas?

    I've been eating a monotonous diet the last two weeks and it has worked like nothing else I have ever tried. It's like magic. Nearly a pound a day. In honor of today's post though (and the desire to keep my dopamine receptors well exercise) tonight was everything-topping pizza, chips, beer and ice cream night. Tomorrow – back to boiled potatoes.

  15. hey brock,
    what does your monotonous diet consist of?
    just curious…..

  16. That dude in the helmet will haunt my dreams tonight. Thanks.
    And how did that painting guy get his afro Perfectly Round?
    Again, fodder for my 4am waking up time.
    Love ya Mattie Cakes,
    deb xo

  17. Brock: I did know a fat crack head. Does that count? and this is NOT a joke he is a friend of my hubby since 12. He is off it now, but lost zero weight whilst crackin'.

  18. All of the people i know personally with major food issues also have problems with other addictions.

    The most effective weightloss medications are stimulants. The reason they also work for ADHD treatment is because they increase dopamine levels. High protein lower carb diets also increase dopamine levels, and are also most effective at weight loss.

  19. Hi Brock,
    food, alcohol, 'drugs', exercise, etc, in my opinion, all have neurochemical implications.
    I know some people – who have dealt with weight issues – by steering completely clear of certain foods (junky-sweet/fatty/salty, for example). Not unlike, some former alcoholics, a taste will not just be a taste, but the neurochemical response will lead to such a strong yearning it becomes an uncontrollable bender. Once in a blue moon, would no doubt be no problem, but in (those individuals) it has the possibility of becoming far more prevalent, and so weight issues exacerbate quickly.
    And some folk do not see such an immediate effect, but over the course of weeks and months as more and more of the (whatever food taste) creeps into the diet, so to the drip effect of the 'drug' increases.
    for what its worth,
    kind wishes, J

  20. Matt, I'm glad you pointed out that people have different responses to these hyperpalatable foods. Ever hear the phrase that "some people live to eat and others eat to live"? My wife are examples of each of those. She hates to eat and only stops to eat when she starts to feel bad…almost never hungry. She barely cracks 100 lbs. I, on the other hand will eat until I am ready to explode. I started eating more ice cream lately and porked up right away. I'm almost 200 lbs now at 5'9"….good thing I finally started working out again recently or that could have been much higher.

  21. as much as I enjoy reading some this blog on nutrition, especially on the theory that starvation is a cause for obesity (and how steadfast you are in supporting it), it is too easy to lose sight of the real culprit here. Western lifestyle, specifically, American lifestyle, eating habits and general mentality is the real culprit behind Americas obesity epidemic. Food is never in scarcity, lower class people eat whenever, where ever and as much as they wish, because that is simply the American way. The meaning of life has become warped into feeling satisfied and satiated on a daily basis and extends from food to any other primal activity. Eating less than normal when out for dinner with friends has now become a taboo of Western Society that invokes conversations and comments such as "Oh my god, are you dieting, are you anorexic". The American appetite for lifestyle and food has extended to one's ego, which is not limited to male or female, but obviously more prevalent in the prior. Stir fry your vegetables, or water cook them and add a bit of soy sauce for dinner. Have tofu instead of steak. Have some fruit instead of ice cream for dessert. We all know how good ice cream is but eating it again, is just about instant gratification. The perfect diet is relative to the individual and if the underweight asian high schooler looks malnourished next to an american high schooler, then wait another 10 years and see what a life time of excess meat and junk will do to someone.

  22. Amy and Wheezy,

    During your return to normal weight, did you have to reduce any macronutrient group e.g low fat?

    Thanks Jane

  23. Real Will,
    I have had the same sort of experience with icecream. The only time in my life that I have put on fat extremely fast is when I started eating a lot of homemade icecream. I started eating eat everyday because I thought it was healthy since it was raw and homemade. Within 2 weeks people started making comments on how I was getting fatter. That sort of rapid fat gain has never happened before or since the great ice cream indulgence. For someone who wants to get as fat as possible in the shortest amount of time I recommend eating lots of icecream.

  24. David,
    Do you think that meat consumption is what is causing the US obesity epidemic?

  25. So why didn't Matt get fat eating icecream – higher metabolism or because he keeps fat intake low?

  26. Fat heroin addict – Artie Lang

    Matt said he DID gain weight while eating the ice cream…

    Great post!

  27. "Monotony trumps all, removing the pleasure away from what would otherwise stimulate the pleasure circuitry. Eat nothing but ice cream or French fries and your appetite will likely plummet and you will lose weight. "
    So how do you explain the 20 potatoes a day guy? he kept eating 20 potatoes a day- no drop in calories, and if his appetite dropped, he ate them regardless–and he still lost weight. There's got to be more to the monotony thing than just a decrease in appetite or even a spontaneous decrease in calorie consumption.
    Brock, with your weight loss on potatoes, has your appetite decreased? Have your calories?

  28. Also Ela and anyone else trying this eating one or two foods, I'd love to hear your results. Are you eating less calories? Hows your appetite? Are you losing weight?

  29. Poor Artie. I miss him on Howard Stern.

  30. First-time poster (but long-time reader)!
    After several years of low carb, I tried RRARF last summer, and to my great delight I loved it…I may have put on a few pounds at first but those quickly dropped off, and I felt great.
    However, I was still about 5-10lbs over my good weight, and unfortuntely could not drop an ounce after that.
    Like many people here, I always avoided sugar and fruit like the plague. So when this Ray Peat stuff started up in the past two months, I though ok…why not. At first I have to admit that eating sweets/chocolate/ice cream made me nervous. But the results for me have been a wonderful surprise…I have started dropping weight. I notice clearly now that my appetite will stop abruptly, usually after much less food than would satisfy me before. So I know for a fact that I am eating less…but I am not using will power whatsoever. I've never really felt this before..I eat..then I just want to stop. I have maintained a reasonably good weight for many years, but this was truly due to my efforts at portion control…always having to pay attention.
    Now, I find there are days when I want to eat more, and I do. Other times, I don't feel like eating much. I feel my appetite is now well regulated to maintain a smaller body weight…but with no effort or deprivation on my part. I feel completely liberated! I am ever-watchful for a rebound effect though ("the honeymoon is over" setback that we all seem to go through after initial success). I waited six weeks before posting this and so far so good.
    One last thing…one of the issues I use to have is terrible fatigue in the afternoon…this has completely lifted now. I love sugar!

  31. I think one thing that all pre-industrial diets had in common was monotomny. There were no supermarkets or burger kings. They ate the same shit over and over and over again. The french or Italian diets werent super palatable 100 years ago. They were lke all peasant diets. Mostly grain and scrounged vegetables and some fish or goat. The kings ate everything and the kings get fat just like italians and french today. I hate Tim Ferris but he is on to something just like Matt is with the whole monotomy thing. You can't have your cake and eat it to. Stick to boring, boring food and binge now and again. Im trying it and its working

  32. but what about the men on the ancel keys study, who ate what they wanted, which would have included junk and still returned to their normal weight with and lost excess body fat?

  33. JT, yep, it plumped me up very fast. The funny thing is, when I was doing IF, I LOST weight eating ice cream. I don't know if it was the zero calories during the day and then the evening calorie spike or what, but I lost fat the most quickly eating ice cream. I even posted that on the IF forum and you wouldn't believe how many people experienced the same thing. Don't know if it was IF related or what.

  34. About the ice cream…..I hardly ever it it, and yet I'm still fat. When I do it eat, it is only one serving, not the whole pint.
    The only time I have ice cream every day and sometimes twice, is when I'm visiting in Italy, and I always lose weight when I am there.

    About fat crack heads…many years ago I had a 3 year meth addiction and it did nothing to help me lose weight. In fact, even though I wasn't eating anything 4-5 days out of every week, I still managed to gain like 75 pounds in those years. Pretty weird.

    I also want to say that obesity is not just a problem in America and in fact many countries have far greater obesity problems than we do here. I really don't think the problem is excess meat, fat, sugars, or starches. It might just in fact be the availability, since we have so much, we eat so much, but that doesn't really make too much sense either. Nothing so far explains why so many people can eat the same foods in the same amounts with the same amount of pleasure and some of those people will be thin, some average, and some obese.

    Also, I want to say that I have a 4 year old boy and I used to be very strict about his diet. I only gave him juice occasionally and it was freshly juiced. I hardly ever let him have sweets and everything was whole grain and whole food and I used to rarely let him have seconds. Yet, even with all that, he still got to be in the higher weight range, he was about 43/44 pounds at 3 years old. Now I've loosened up a lot. I let him have 1-2 juice boxes every day, I don't cook everything from scratch and include some prepared foods in his diet, and I even let him have goldfish crackers and potato chips a couple times a week. I give him seconds if he asks for it and don't force him to eat if he doesn't want to. He has not gained any weight in over a year and he is still at 44 pounds. His clothes from last year are much looser on him now. This is just my observation, but does a diet obsessed mother always lead a child to obesity?

  35. Chanelle-

    No disrespect, but the 20 potatoes per day guy wasn't eating squat for calories. I think less than 2,000 calories per day. But the monotony of it kept his hunger down and prevented immediate weight rebound.

    If the Twinkie Diet really "worked," it would be because he ONLY ate packaged junk food like Nutter Butters and Twinkies, which would be quite monotonous too.


    Yes, a diet obsessed mother will probably always lead their kid to obesity – or anorexia. I think what you did is great, and implemented that same concept with my lady friend's 5-year old. Wiped out some of her health problems right away to have the removal of force and reward from mealtimes. And the kid is super lean.

    Moonlight Graham-

    I agree. My only concern is that, with a large body built on calorie dense food during my youth, that when I go on a prolonged "boring diet" I end up being metabolically penalized, with calorie-dense junk food as my salvation. Time and time again I have concentrated pleasure foods improve mood, libido, body temperature, digestion, and more – while stockpiling me with body fat.

    My greatest dilemma is that I know how to get lean, and I know how to get healthy and feeling amazing with super strong, shiny nails, radiant, fast-growing hair, incredible sex drive, etc…

    But I don't know how to be lean AND healthy at the same time!

    Nordic mama-

    That's great. A lot of people have stated that, and it's in total contrast to Kessler's idea that eating ice cream and chocolate and fruit juice will make you eat more and get fatter. But I wanted to mention this point of view as well because it's out there and the research on it is intriguing to say the least.


    Interesting. I think I could have gotten leaner having a little ice cream on zero carb as well. I wonder why this is. Perhaps the food abstinence period interrupted what would otherwise be "ad libitum" eating, triggering the fattening effect.


    Ice cream has been king of the fatteners for me too. But it's also king of the body temperature stimulators, getting my body pushing hard to fight against the calorie excess. I also get sick of it after a week or two if I do not limit it in the slightest but go at it full throttle. So I still think that many who notice that sudden surge in fat increase may be putting too much emphasis on the short-term effects.

  36. (Having watched the videos):–so, this is much of the science behind yesterday's post on Kessler's book. And as testimonies like 'Nordic mama's and the 'pillowcase' strategy (as well as much of Matt's own work) point out, it's not always the way things go, especially if you can 'rewire reward.'

    One thing I was struck by in the video series was the constant repetition of the 'constantly available (in unlimited quantities)' refrain. A commenter on yesterday's post also stated that that was the root of the obesity epidemic, not the starvation response.

    But obviously, it's possible to have a starvation response in the midst of superabundance–except for my very lowest hells of anorexia, I always had to have tons of food around and I still hoard food!

    This got me wondering whether it's actually _both_: the reward pathway intensifies the desire for the (stimulating) food, and soon enough everyone, brains thusly morphed, is on a diet, trying to lose weight and break the addiction: doesn't this sound like a recipe for epidemic starvation mode, lowered metabolism, rebound bingeing, 'check dieting?'

  37. The potato guy says he ate about 1600 calories a day eating to appetite for the first three weeks. He started to lose weight fast, so he ate 2200 calories daily for the remaind of the 60 days. Are you saying his weight loss is due to calorie restriction? If so, how does the whole monotony thing play a role? He reported back a month and a half afterward that of the 21 pounds he'd lost, he'd 'intentionally' gained back 3 pounds but kept off the rest.
    Pretty much I just want to know if I eat one food only, will I lose the weight I gained (20 lbs. In four months, no change in anything else!) from getting an IUD? I want to do something that won't mess me up further when I stop.

  38. BTW, when I eat ice cream, I eat a lot. Those 1.5 qt containers only last about 2 servings and sometimes I will start on another one. I loves me the ice cream.

  39. Word. Could that possibly be a withdrwawal effect that would fade with time? That might fit into the whole addiction thing. When people quit smoking, sometimes their health goes to absolute shit but it would be hard to conclude that the cigs were healthy in the first place. It takes a while for their bodies to readapt and maybe thats the same thing that an overweight person has to go through.
    Its just harder when its socially acceptable to eat all kinds of shit and not socially acceptable to smoke. The struggle is much harder I admit.

  40. Chanelle–can't you just remove the iud? I know that that's probably not a straightforward thing, but if it's solely responsible for the weight gain, things would likely return to normal. And if it's an iud impregnated with estrogen, it makes sense that it would cause weight gain, I suppose.

    On the 'monotonous diet'–I've been doing it just less than a week, so early to call results. And I'm obviously bad at 'controlled experiments:' at the same time as the 'monotonous' thing, I've also cut my fat down way low and increased my exercise. Still, it's too early to tell what the whole picture is. But my appetite is low (but it's seldom high, so not a big difference) but my energy generally good. I expect I'll slim down some but I don't weigh myself because of the anorexia thing. I'm going to go by fit of certain clothing.

  41. frickin' comment lost down the blog-hole

  42. @ela, of course I had that thing removed as soon as I realized! It's been two weeks and no change in weight at all! I know, two weeks isn't long, but I am the heaviest I've ever been and I'm finding it so hard to be patient.

  43. Oops, it's been three weeks with no change.

  44. Chanelle–I'm sorry! That sounds like a really uncomfortable situation. Patience is the hardest thing in a situation like that. But I'd still say that three weeks isn't very long. Hope things shift for you soon!

  45. @JT,

    No, I do not, but I believe the general life style is. It's not what you eat, but the portion you eat. Americans on average are over nutrition-ed and eat way too much. Sometimes I read the recommended weight and calorie for an average American adult and it baffles me why they are so high. The reason why these extreme diets are so fruitful in short term and ONLY marketable in the USA is because most if not all that go on them are simply fat and overweight. It's easy for a body to drop a pound a week if it's overweight. The bottom line is, you can't just eat whatever you want and whenever you want, and you can not eat until you feel 100% full, because then that is just over eating. The abundance of food and a the choices of food offered, the USA standard of living is astronomically high. The human body does not need that much food to stay healthy and alive, but food has become like a form of art and even an escape, where simply eating something delicious or eating until you're full brings instant gratification. The obesity epidemic effects the lower-class more, it's sad to think but it true that its simply more expensive to eat right, eat healthy, and lead a lifestyle that does not need food to bring happiness.

  46. Chanelle-

    Sounds like you got punk'd with an IUD! Sucka!!!!

    It's things that this that make fools out of the "eat less, exercise more" dopes. What, did the IUD make you eat more and exercise less? No, you did what you always do but your body stored up a bunch of fat by altering the calories in/calories out equation.


    That's what's so interesting about all this. Eat less of delicious foods and an enjoyable diet, and you will get hungry and tired and have your metabolism slow down. AND, you have to eat below appetite to lose weight. But just eating the same thing over and over again spontaneously lowers weight set point, killing appetite and potentially even raising metabolism. That's what is so weird about it. The only mainstream author that has touched on this that I'm aware of is Linda Bacon, but she did a poor job of explaining how mysterious it is.

    But I think the mystery is simple. The greater the pleasure you get from eating, the more numb your brain becomes to dopamine. Dopamine probably plays a major role in controlling leptin sensitivity. Anything that improves leptin sensitivity causes spontaneous weight loss without any loss of lean body mass. Anything that increases leptin resistance causes spontaneous increase in weight set point.

    So try it if you are impatient. Eat unseasoned hard-boiled eggs and plain oatmeal for every meal. Eat to appetite. Get through the initial cravings and you'll experience what 20potatoesaday experienced – a dramatic drop in appetite without metabolic revolt from your body. Note, it's gonna suck something awful! No pleasure there! You might have to start watching porn to get your dopamine fix!


    Oh yeah, I wanted to say that, the Guyenet mention above was not some attempt to show everyone how I was "the man." It's more like how I would react if someone said, "oh, what are your thoughts about Stephan's conclusion that the metabolic rate is the prime determinant of overall health status?"

    I would say, "what do you mean how do I feel about it? Have you even read one blog post?"

    The annoyance stemmed from the redundancy of it all. But hey, maybe reduncancy will help me get leaner, haha!


    Yeah, tons of ice cream to satisfy my appetite for it. Usually 3 pints per day minimum.

  47. I think that one of the reasons that a monotonous diet results in weight loss is adaptation. The body knows what it is getting and is comfortable with it. Just like many centenarians say they eat this every day or all the time…or they do this every day. It is monotonous but reduces the stress on the body.

  48. JT

    A while back you mentioned you were thinking about dropping your carb intake down to 150 grams/day. How has that gone?

  49. @ Jane "During your return to normal weight, did you have to reduce any macronutrient group e.g low fat?"

    Not sure if you're still reading this thread so I'll post in the new one, too.

    I guess my fat was lowered. Sugar, too. In my initial recovery I ate a lot of fat and sugar together, and definitely gained weight on it (which was needed). Then I lowered the amount of fat (slightly consciously, maybe, but it was a fairly natural thing). Last year I did the Rrarf thing (eating to appetite, not past it) but really ate a lot of fat with the carbs. I did put on a few pounds (maybe 5, not more).

    When I stopped thinking I "needed" to eat a lot of fat, I cut back to what I really felt I needed (which is occasionally a lot of butter or ghee, but usually just a little bit). So, the fat again was lowered, and the weight came off.

    IMO, fat is the biggest factor. It needs to be natural, though. Once I got over my WAPF idea that I needed butter in huge amounts and just listened to my body, I went back to the lower amounts of fat I'd had before and that I have now. I also eat a lot less olive oil than I did when I was first recovering. I think that's been a positive, too. Ghee is more slimming.

    Eating whatever I want has done amazing things, and like other people have said it has totally blunted my cravings and need to eat a lot. What I want honestly is pretty plain and almost always whole foods.

  50. I think I'll skip the porn, but bring on the monotony. I'm going to give it a try!

  51. Good luck, Chanelle! I'm finding I have to keep reminding myself that I can have as much as I want of (yams and carrots)(fill in the blank). Maybe just for me, but it seems easy to get into the mentality of 'this is enough, surely?' or 'have to save some for later.' I just stocked up real big on those two items. And despite a fairly intense workout today, my appetite seems to have been less…

  52. Thanks Ela, I'll keep that in mind. I'm going to go with potatoes and eggs. And if that doesn't do the trick, I'll cut the eggs out too.

  53. Cool Chanelle–hope it goes well for you. Are you going to have a 'treat day' (or 'cheat day') one day per week? I'm paying attention to the importance of that too and am going to make sure that I do it. Good to avoid the tendency to get really restrictive and blinkered, and good to avoid metabolism dropping, I hope. I've never been able to do it before (just fallen back down the starvation chute), so I'm excited to make it happen this time.

  54. I am planning on cheating on Memorial day when we have family in town, and 3 days in June when we head to Las Vegas. Other than that, I'll be pretty strict.

  55. Good luck, Chanelle: one more thing from your 'scout:' I've been noticing that I'm thirstier with this limited diet, for whatever reason, and suspect that if you're doing eggs, that might be even more the case. It seems important to really drink a lot of water…


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